Fulfillment By Amazon Research Team 

Amazon.com mid 2017 - mid 2018

The Leadership Opportunity:

 

The Business: Fulfillment by Amazon deals with a suite of technologies and tools that allow a product Seller to leverage the Amazon e-commerce platform to reach more customers for their products, both domestically and internationally. It also offers program options and analytics that support supply chain and warehousing of their products. 

The Product: From the perspective of the end user journey, there is alot to learn and many different tools and programs with which to familiarize yourself. Sellers have difficulty establishing context and taking full advantage of the various programs and tools available to them. 

 

The Leadership Need: The Senior Manager of User Experience hired me as a people manager to build and grow the research function, create frameworks for the intake and prioritization of project requests, and create efficiency where possible in order to 'do more with less'.

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Details

Team Structure and Hiring - Strategic Planning and Process Redesign 

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1 Inheriting a team and requisitions
Building Trust and managing up to realize a better operational model.

I managed a staff of 2 researchers (Chad Singer and Logan Wells) and inherited 2 open requisitions for additional research hires.

In order to take advantage of the benefits of growing a team, I focused my energy over the first 6 months getting familiar with the tools and programs for which the team was responsible, assessing the effectiveness of the current state of research support, and determining what would be the most effective use of our existing resources. Initially, there was very little strategic alignment with executive leadership and there were no advocates to champion the tools we needed to scale. 

Both Chad and Logan had a strong background in conducting generative research, yet had not found a way to separate themselves from the long list of requests for evaluative research support.  We needed better tools and training for PMs and Designers to contribute toward evaluation while prioritizing larger, meta research questions that needed the majority of each researcher's time.

After some organizational changes came to pass, research requisitions were rescinded, and I managed a junior designer, Yuka, for a short while.

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2 Strategic Planning and Process Redesign
Aligning research work to organizational goals, onboarding tools, and training staff on Design Thinking for stakeholder collaboration. 

I took a three-pronged approach to create more value from research for the overall org, and the research team specifically: 

  • Assessed and prioritized outstanding project topics with Product Management stakeholders

  • On-boarded third-party vendor tools to crowdsource support of a large volume of evaluative research requests

  • Implemented a Design Thinking Accelerator to train multi-disciplinary staff on building design-led product requirements 

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Project intake and prioritization exposed the fact that there was a lack of an approachable vocabulary around the design process and the kinds of research that supports product design and development work in those stages.

 

I created a very simplistic framework and labels, in a language the department could understand, for subsequent reference as I interfaced with stakeholders and determined what their true needs were. 

Ideation (or Discovery) projects were found to be numerous and unsupported, with the consensus being that these topics were critical to demonstrate the impact research could have on the products.

 

Planning, therefore, set out to balance the researchers' time between generate and evaluative work while tool licenses were put into place. 

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Third party vendor tools requested were in support of both early research and evaluation, with the primary focus on evaluation. The best way to scale quickly given the volume of testing requests coming from PMs and Designers, in my mind, was to provide them a tool that gave them access to users and allowed them to easily place their prototypes in the participant's hands. That tool was UserTesting.com.

A requirement at Amazon for large purchases is a proposal document that justifies the expense to the business. I illustrated how this tool would help us to scale and deliver more usable products given the lean research staffing. 

A similar process was followed for both Qualtrics and dscout.

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The Design Thinking Accelerator was an additional process for moving strategic efforts quickly from initial request to a conceptual direction with a lean team, short timelines, and technical constraints. Often, these efforts were high visibility but could not have dedicated UX resources assigned to them. The proof-of-concept was for a technology team in Hyderabad, tasked with building a home-grown tool for an EU VAT tax support team who would offer assistance to Sellers as they try to navigate the complex world of tax filing requirements there.

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© 2019 by Peter Roessler.